Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Zen of Yanmani

Subject: Noir
Listening to: "MADLAX OST 1"
Mood: Pins & Needles
In the kitchen: Pasta and pasta-related program activities

I've needed a smidge of a pick-me-up after beating myself up so badly earlier this week. For this "vacation" that I'm stuck taking now (while work piles up, according to the constant beeping of my BlackBerry), I was hoping to indulge in some sort of "Le Grande Retour de la Grande Rewatch" -- an uber-marathon to end all marathons. But aside from getting through a couple of discs of ".hack//SIGN", I just couldn't get my heart into it. .hack//*SIGH*

F* the rut, though. I'm gonna watch "MADLAX"! Maybe not all at once, but enough.

Why? Let's just say that this broke my brain:

UPDATE: "MADLAX" kicks "El Cazador's" arse six ways from Sunday. It's inescapable just how awsome it is.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Brad Bird iz in my base, killin my dudz

Subject: Cinema
Brad Bird is in my head and I can't stop feeling like he's lecturing me.

I've gone on a few times about "The Incredibles" and how it feels like the ultimate expression of midlife crisis for me, and just how f*-in' jealous I am of the whole Pixar experience that I wasn't good enough to join back in the day. As my Youtube demoreel so obviously illustrates.

"Ratatouille" showed up this weekend, along with the first anthology of Pixar shorts, so I was compelled to watch them right away. First, I unwrapped my copy of "The Iron Giant", which I hadn't seen for quite a while, but was glad to finally have an excuse to.

There wasn't as much there to make me feel like a personal failure like Bird's Pixar films do, but it's still a whole lot of awesome that is rarely seen in the American-produced 2-D animation market in the last 10-20 years or so. I could almost extrapolate a sort of "big, scary, nobody understands" relationship from it, but it would really be quite a stretch, so in reality, I'd say it didn't really apply to my thesis for tonight, and that I'd just plain recommend it for it's simple honest awesomness. Which is so rare in American animation.

The Pixar Shorts disc I immediately selected the Commentary track for, because I saw most of the classics back in the day when Pixar shorts were the ideal for which all of us animation students ascribed to. I've already mentioned that John Lassiter came to speak to my animation class right around the time "Tin Toy" came out (he co-won the student Academy Award with my department head some years previously), and that Craig Good, another old-skool Pixarian, personally slapped me down for one of my naive pronouncements in the old proto-Usenet newsgroups when I mouthed off about animation one time. So as much as I sucked, I owe a lot of what I learned to the early days of Pixar. The commentaries I guess brought me back to those days, and I guess I got more nostalgia than insight, though there can be a bit of insight in nostalgia if you think about it...

"Ratatouille" itself, of course, rocked. It had everything going right for it, and it kicked it up a notch (Emeril joke) by doing the details so incredibly well. And add the bonus of a beautifully rendered Paris, and it's no wonder I was captivated.

But of course, like with "The Incredibles", I couldn't help but project my own message on to it. The theme of "Anybody Can Cook", and the illustration of the complexities of the world of being a chef, was instantly symbolic of being an animator to me. There's absolutely no escaping that parallel. It could apply to any sort of artistic or creative imperitave, sure, but "animator" was screaming at me.

I kind of knew that's what it was going to do to me, so it took a whole couple of days before I could bring myself to watch it, but I was determined to. And surely enough, while the credits rolled, I broke down much like I did during "The Incredibles". Only this time not so much out of jealousy, as much as I feel like a bit of a failure for not being so capable of having taken to heart such simple, basic, ultimate truth as that silly little rat was told by his imaginary apparition of an obsurdly obese French chef told him. How crazy, yet how simple and how true. And how much I'm beating myself up over it again.

It's something to say that the techniques and style of the animation and storytelling didn't make me get all annoyed like "Crappy Feet" or other mo-cap films did. (Late in the credits, there was a little anti-mo-cap placard that whizzed by that was hilarious and I really need to get a screencap of), and inversely actually made me totally emotionally relate to what was being expressed (for better or for worse). In a lot of ways, it's kind of an obvious ploy -- fellow in the rat race wants to be an artist. How hard is that to portray? But I'm a total sucker for it, because it's real for me and I can identify with it.

As a one-off, it would have been just something I would have given a bit of snarky commentary towards and that would be that. But mixed with my reaction to Bird's previous mid-life-crisis-a-thon "The Incredibles", it's like he's been speaking to my psyche directly. And I wish I could say that's been a good thing. I love it a lot, but I'm totally distraught as an outcome, and I find myself feeling even more like I've missed the boat by not trying harder back in the day to meet Pixar's expectations instead of selling out to the corporate drudgery that pays the bills for me these days. *sigh*

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Super-secret hidden Mashimo!

Subject: Noir
No, I haven't been a part of the Writer's Strike, but I have had a strong case of writer's block. Ah well.

Like I just posted over on the 'Fan, I stumbled on an old-skool series -- "Future Police Urashimon" that apparently was directed by Koichi Mashimo, but ANN had incomplete information on and didn't have him in the credits at all.

It just goes to show that he's been at this for quite a long time...

UPDATE: Of course, trying to post to the 'Fan seems to have brought it crashing down. The webhost isn't responding right now... *sigh*
UPDATE 2: Okay, fixed for now, they must have rebooted or something...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Breaking news! New Bee Train anime for April 2008?!? "Lightning G"? Or is it "Future Diary"?

Subject: Noir
Gawd help me, I really can't untangle what the Google translator is telling me, but after doing a quick search of the MoonPhase domain for Bee Train, I found this blog entry that is totally making my heart race:

未来日記 アニメ化?







Google gives me this:
Future Diary anime?
Foul information Why creditworthiness is unknown, but the citation.

Lightning G `s out information.

In April 2008 from future diary stations nationwide U anime decision and announcement.

Major staff and cast just keep running.

Director: Koichi Mashimo / screenwriter: Yousuke Kuroda / Music: Yuki Kajiura / Manufacturing: Bee Train


Amano snow Bright: Swan Philosophy /我妻由乃: Rie Kugimiya /須圭come Satoru: Hino Satoshi / increase thanks佑: Aya Hisakawa / Kasugano Tsubaki: Mai Nakahara / rain flow it right there: Yukari Tamura / Tsukishima Hunter: Hitoshi Sunao Takiguchi / Ban Hitoshi Yomigaeri: Tomokazu Sugita / shoal or fall: Souitirou Yasushi / Hino in the sun: Ryouko Shiraishi / Ban Nono MAO: KOYAMA KIMIKO / Deus Exe Maki Na: Norio Wakamoto

Mashimo directing. Kuroda("MADLAX") writing. Yuki Kajiura Music... And so much more!

So what I can't tell is if this is saying that this was found in a "future diary" and it's called "Lightning G" -- or if it's called "Future Diary" and someone/something named "Lightning G" reported it... ??

There is a manga called "The Future Diary" (aka "Mirai Nikki")

Ah, I see, there is a "Lightning G's Magazine"... So "Future Diary" must be the title?

It seems like this is unconfirmed, though.

Discussion and further sleuthing in the Bee Train Fan forum, of course.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A rounder roundup

Subject: Noir
First a bit of an aside; my referrer stats tell me that, yet again, I must have pissed in somebody's unique and special cornflakes with my previous roundup snark about "Divergence Eve". *shrug* But, I suppose I should clear it up for the record: I said I actually did (albiet barely) make it through one episode, making an earnest 2nd attempt after aborting my first attempt early. And I said I specifically wanted to try it because of recommendations I read; I don't waste my time to go out of my way to find a show just to dis' it. But if I find something I don't like, I enjoy having a little fun snarking about it. *grin*

My perspective, "ungrounded" as it may be, is that of a cranky old film-geek snob non-fan who discovered late in life that there's actually anime out there that I enjoy. The qualities I'm looking for are rather divergent (hee hee) from what most "real" fans are looking for. Call it a western bias, call it cluelessness, whatever. What attracts me, attracts me. What repels me, repels me. Sometimes, based on reviews I read or recommendations from readers, I'll give something a chance to surprise me, because there are numerous shows that contain elements that I would otherwise find irritating, but make up for it with other qualities.

"Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars" was one of those. I finished up the last disc finally, and it's kind of surprising how many of my usual "negatives" are present in it -- the excruciating minutae of the Japanese schoolroom (and awkward schoolkid romance), the often blank & limited pallete of gestures and expressions, the overall "moving-manga" presentation. But, in those "limited" expressions, there was still a little spark of life and interest to the characters that gave them a bit of soul. There were little twists in the narrative outside of the schoolroom that grabbed my curioustity. The action sequences were well animated, and the overall timing, even in the more static shots, was spot-on. So, ultimately I was entertained by it -- though I admittedly fast-forwarded through a wee bit of the schoolroom stuff early on. But then I'd miss a twist and have to go back, so I got more patient with it as time went on.

Also added to my "finished-up" list is "009-1". What a hoot that show is! It digs up all kinds of dark cold-war-era tropes and paints them in a retro-mod pallete and a bit of sarcastic self-awareness and puts 'em out there with no apologies. It's a charming style piece with interesting, almost touching little stories which are surpisingly dark considering the campiness of the concept. I think I'm going to make this one a "buy", though I'm not going to get a lot of rewatch value out of it. But I'm looking for unique and stand-out work, and this is worth rewarding for that fact alone.

Speaking of unique and stand-out, "Dennou Coil" at episode 19 turns into a tense bit of supernatural thriller, as the girls are trapped in the house by ghostly zombie-like "illegals" from "the other side" who have just kidnapped the cyber-conciousness of the little sister. It's a brilliantly crafted episode, with just a little edge of humour, and a lot of payoff because of the amount life and soul breathed into the characters by the animators since scene 1 of episode 1 make it nearly impossible not to be carried along by their anxiety and emotion. And far and away this cements it as the Best Show of 2007 for me, which only goes to prove once again that excellent production qualities can overcome my irritation with "typical schoolkid" shows.

Finally, I've dipped back into the old-skool again and rented the first disc of the first "Mobile Suit Gundam" series from 1979 or thereabouts. I was slightly dissappointed that it was dub-only, but the era and style were much like my nostalgic teenage memories of "RoboTech", so I got over that quickly. Well, mostly, as I think the dub probably interfered with my suspension-of-disbelief mechanism and blocked me from getting too deep into the characters. Not a big deal, because like I said, the nostalgia, along with my appreciation of the old-skool production techniques were enough to carry me through. I'll probably keep working my way through this first one before I start peeking around looking through the rest of the insanely huge "Gundam" franchise for more options -- a task that I figure could keep me busy for years.